Sunday, April 30, 2006

Independent Atlantic League opens tonight

The independent Atlantic League opened it's season weekend. The league doesn't get much publicity outside the northeast, but it is worth watching.

Every year, major league clubs pluck players from the Atlantic League to fill their rosters. In years past Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco and Ruben Sierra have jumped from Atlantic League teams to the show. Former Chicago Cub Henry Rodriguez is off to a hot start for the Long Island Ducks. He may be the next to go.

I spent a day at the Atlantic League's spring training site in Lakeland, Fla. Seven teams take over the Detroit Tigers spring training site, living in on campus dorms and practicing on back fields. The Florida State League's Lakeland Tigers play on the main field.

The spring training games draw sparse crowds - mostly family and friends. It's a shame, because fans have the ability to interact with players, many of whom are former major leaguers. There were a few savvy autograph seekers wondering around, but for the most part players and coaches wandered the campus in peace. I wouldn't be surprised to see attendance at the Atlantic League's spring training increase steadily over the next few years.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

MLB umpires join picket line

Regardless of which side you favor in the minor league umpires' strike, the events of this week are mostly positive.

To a man, the striking umpires I've spoken with are eager to get back to work. Minor league officials keep saying they want the umpires back. Managers and players are looking forward to the consistency professional umpires bring to the field.

The strike's profile was raised significantly Tuesday morning when major league umpires joined the minor leaguers walking a picket line in Hagerstown, Md. More media attention can only help the striking umpires' cause. Strikes are pretty pointless if no one knows you're striking.

But the bigger news is that both sides have agreed to meet with a federal mediator in Cincinnati on Wednesday and Thursday. It will be the first time the two sides have talked since the start of the season.

Don't get overly optimistic. Both sides still seem pretty far apart, but at least they are willing to open a dialogue.

In the mean time, feel free to send me some of the more bizarre umpire-related screw-ups you've witnessed.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Major affinity for minor leagues

I enjoy meeting fans who are just insane. The Drostens weren't crazy. They just truly love minor league baseball.

How else would you explain holding season tickets for two differnt franchises. Sure, their Daytona tickets are free. They were two of 17 fans who received season tickets for life when they got tattoos featuring the Daytona Cubs logo.

Pat went first, putting the logo just above her left ankle. Ed put his on his left shoulder blade.

The Drostens are the first fans profiled on, but they won't be the last. I'm looking forward to meeting diehard fans from around the nation. We are working on putting a fan area on

By the way, I was introduced to the Drostens by Brevard County general manager Buck Rogers. What a wild show Rogers and his crew put on. Look for an article about the zaniness that envelopes Space Coast Stadium in the coming weeks on

Read about the Drostens passion on

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bobby Darula Update

I've tried to follow the careers of all the people I interviewed for The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball. One of those stories finally has a happy ending.

Those who've read The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen probably remember Bobby Darula's stories. His unforgettable utterance to an umpire is the book's second story and his stalker story are truly unforgettable.

I interviewed Darula in early May of 2004. At the time Darula was a little preoccupied. His brother, Joseph, was a marine serving in Fallujah during one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war. It seemed newscasts led with rising body counts from that region every day. Darula hadn't heard from his brother in three weeks.

The good news is that Joseph Darula made it home safely and is working in the stock market.

As for Bobby, he will start the season in the Atlantic League playing for the Bluefish; Bridgeport, Connecticut's minor league baseball club. The outfielder had a strong 2005 season with Triple-A Ottawa, hitting .311 and stealing 17 bases in 109 games. He waited too long to sign with an affiliated club – trying to play one team's offer against another, eventually losing all offers.

The Greenwich, Ct. native seemed content to be starting the season near his hometown. Those of you who know him should plan on seeing him early in the season. If he puts up numbers similar to last season, he won’t be there very long.

Read more about minor league baseball at

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Aronson last man talking in 20 inning marathon

The trip to Fort Myers earlier this week was well worth it.

I went to talk with Miracle play-by-play man Sean Aronson who, a few nights prior, had just called a 20-inning baseball game all by himself. He still looked a little tired. I first met Sean a couple years back when I was working on my book, The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen. He was helpful then and was even more helpful this time, though he could have used a day off.

The night I was there the Miracle, a Mike Veeck-owned club, were having one of those crazy promotions - a salute to the doughnut. Fans received doughnuts as they entered the stadium, fun facts about the doughnut were posted around the stadium and other doughnut-related promotions were held on the field between innings. The team shied away from using a doughnut instead of a baseball for the ceremonial first pitch. I'm not sure why. I was looking forward to that one.

In any event, I had a great time in Fort Myers and look forward to getting back there later in the season. Those guys get it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Let's Play 33

I can't even fathom it, really. I mean, 33 innings? Come on.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the longest game ever, a 3-2 Pawtucket victory over Rochester in 33 innings ( ). Wow.

Think about all the ridiculous things about that game. Rochester center fielder Dallas Williams went 0-for-13. That's a three-day slump wrapped up in one game. Not to be out done, the Paw Sox Russ Laribee struck out in eight of his 11 at-bats, possibly inspiring a new promotion: two-for-one golden sombrero night.

Jim Umbarger pitched 10 innings of scoreless relief for Rochester, yet didn't factor in the decision. Losing pitcher Steve Grilli was not a member of the Red Wings when the game started.

Can you imagine working the hot dog stand for that one? How long did they serve beer? How pissed was everybody (players and fans) with Wade Boggs' game tying hit in the bottom of the 21st?

Finally, ask yourself this: How long would you have stayed? And how drunk would you have been?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Borders demotes himself

When I first saw the Vero Beach Dodgers roster, I figured Pat Borders was likely the son of the former major leaguer. Wrong. It was the 1992 World Series MVP, himself.

Borders was offered a spot with the Dodgers’ Triple-A squad in Las Vegas, but asked to be sent to Single-A Vero because it was close to his home in Lake Wales, Fl. The Dodgers obliged, no doubt excited to have Borders work with the younger catchers in their org.

Despite being twice the age of most of his teammates, Borders is starting to fit in. He’s not sure that’s a good thing. During our interview ( ), Borders was anxiously checking the clubhouse door to make sure his teammates weren’t planning some shenanigans for the interview.

He smiled when asked about kangaroo court, figuring it will be the first chance for his younger teammates to skewer him. Borders should worry. One player told me after the game that there is something brewing, but refused to give any details.

Whatever happens, Borders will take it with a smile. And I suspect whoever pulls the first prank will eventually have to deal with the man who is starting his 24th season in professional baseball. I bet he knows a comeback or two.